Spiderman: Homecoming & Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

A Mean Motive Opportunity


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Reported on 2nd of November, 2017

People seem to ignore it when I put two movies together in an article, and I seem to like being ignored. But seeing the predictably disappointing Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets forced me to write about the unexpectedly good Spiderman: Homecoming, which are now inseparable as the demonstration for today’s rule ‘a mean motive opportunity.’

I also seem to like typos so much, I’m using ‘mean’ in the archaic sense of ‘flimsy’ or ‘threadbare.’ We have reached the tail in the intestines of this self-eating snake of a site: intentional errors.

Why people do stuff


re: Spiderman: Homecoming & Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
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To explain the term: Motives. Sometimes characters in movies have them. And these days, I should really be grateful when this happens at all. Most times, a character just whatever the plot requires. Without the plot, of course. One might have heard ‘We’ll just get Mr. Jake Jones to play it so people will know he’s supposed to be funny‘. I’m fairly sure the pitch for 10 Cloverfield Lane was ‘It’s Ms. Elizabeth Winsted…hold on, you’ll love this…in a movie.’

So when Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets presents us with some kind of definable arc for Mr. He’s Not Going To Become Leonardo DiCaprio No Matter How Many Times You Cast Him Dane DeHaan and Ms. Cara Delevingne it at least demonstrates some kind of grasp of writing class in the 1970s.

I should be grateful, but I am not. It’s not enough that that characters have a motive, it must be something we can feel ourselves. So we divide these motives into two categories, mechanical and felt.

This is an important distinction, as often times, certain motives just go right over our hearts. The seeming popularity of the Poor Little Rich Man indicate the type of interests for the people writing the film (i.e. not pissing off their money guys) but is a risk generally for an audience. You may hate them, but you’ll love their kitchen!

But as something like The Big Short or even the films of The Tall Man series demonstrate, it’s a question of finding the right motive. Rich people, much to the chagrin of those pesky Marxists, can be sympathetic in movies.

Much to the satisfaction of those self-same Marxists is that the majority of the time, they are not, and not because they steal everybody’s money to buy a quote from Albert Einstein about how money can’t buy happiness. No, what’s is odd about films like Inception, This is 40, A Cure for Life, Arbitrage and the practically non-existent The Wizard of Lies is the way in which the motives necessitate so much abstract, and usually dull, explanation. We don’t generally care about how the re-appointment of a fourth proxy might affect a two-thirds majority in an emergency vote of the board; it’s the kind of excessive exposition you find in science fiction epics.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

29 July 2017 @ The Gaumont Rennes


$2.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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Like this one! We get that too, an it’s-so-clunky-you-love-it description of the titular city of Valerian, where two characters explain in great detail, to themselves, and even though they’ve been there a hundred times, a history of the space station, its different regions and its peoples. You imagine, and maybe even dream, of a version of Casablanca where the characters tell us about the bar they started five years before as they walk down the street:

“Why is it called ‘Rick’s?’ Tell it again, Sam.”

You-love-it because instead of being a set-up, it’s just something that they wanted to show, and then they did. It’s not part of the story and it’s never referred to again. There’s a lot of stuff like this, in a film that – as I predicted – would be the film that M. Besson always wanted to make. When he dedicates the film to his father in the end, you get it. This is the comic book he read as a kid, and that he needed very much to transcribe – verbatim and imagatim – to the screen.

And so the motive (I made it to the topic!) is irredeemably retrograde and, for our purposes, not terribly relatable. Mr. DeHaan wants to go out with Ms. Delevingne. Ms. Delevigne wants commitment. Maybe someone was going through an issue like this in their personal life, or more likely, it was in the original, and couldn’t be left out in the name of the father.

Is it clunky? Hoo boy. It’s My Ivy League education taught me to do exposition about my character bad. But in any case, The Boy Who Cannot Make A Commitment and The Girl Who Wants One is not especially resonant. And, as before with rich people wanting to shave off twenty five basis points before the Nikkei open, we vaguely understand. The story proceeds, and we don’t object, which is what now passes for interest. If you don’t get caught, it’s the same as not committing the crime.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: The Take

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Profits!
It did have a space hedgehog shitting out life pearls. I give it that.
$2.00
And space boobies. I’m not made of stone.
$2.00
The multiple dimension shopping area had a lot of visual and mechanical potential…
$3.00
Total Profits
$7.00
Losses!
…if someone, usually Besson, knew where to put the fucking camera.
$2.00
It’s just wasn’t weird enough. It needed to be slightly worse, or a LOT better, to be enjoyable. Either cut the 1970s retrogressiveness, or go all the way.
$3.00
Total Losses
$5.00

$2.00

Spiderman: Homecoming

12 July 2017 @ The Gaumont Rennes


$17.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Superhero films often have the same motive problem as the Poor Little Rich Destroyer Of Worlds, and Why Doesn’t My Man Love Me, Oh Now He Does. In the case of the archetypal super-hero movie – Man of Steel – which it seems I have mentioned fourteen times and not written about it…hold on…just a second…got it.

In the case of the archetypal super-hero movie – Man of Steel (I added a link. HTML markup joke!) – and all the Spiderman movies, we are told that it’s super hard and ever so sad depressing to be powerful. These type of motives are understandable: they create a matrix in which the characters can act, and we all go, yeah, okay. I guess. He did that thing. I’m not objecting so I’m having fun!

Again from the perspective of the winners, from whence so many of these stories come, we are hearing how difficult it is to do whatever you want. Oh, the responsibility. Which I put off on the bad guy. As I said, and I stand by it: ‘The film isn’t asking us to relate to what it’s like to be American, but to be America.’ I just quoted myself and the snake has vanished. That could be construed as pretentious, but it vanished up its own butt!

But Spiderman: Homecoming, God bless its heart, does something different. It cares, and it makes us. Mr. Tom Holland is a kid, and all he wants is to be part of the team. The desire to be out of being out of the ingroup is universal, the need to impress. Add in genuine mistakes made by a kid and wanting to kiss the girl, these are basic hooks that have been missing from studio films a long time.

Even Mr. Michael Keaton, as the baddie, is just a contractor trying to make do with various alien weapons. We get – a little bit – his desire to support his family. But it’s really the suits who take away his contract at the beginning. It’s not fair, and that is an easy fit. It’s basic have and have-nots, hidden rather cleverly during a monolog that announces itself as a monolog. Seeing Mr. Keaton here makes Birdman‘s existence .78% more vaguely less deeply evil.

It doesn’t hurt that the film is quite well made, with human and usually teenage details encroaching on the fantasy universe. Mr. Holland being thrown through a school bus and seeing wads of chewed gum under the seats is an especially memorable moment. Films like this need moments more than plot. It is an inhabited world, rare enough, but more so because there’s people with flying robot wings and such.

Finally, and possibly just to stoke my burgeoning hatred of Baby Driver, there is the inclusion of the song ‘Space Age Love Song’ by the one-joke-about-the-one-hit-wonder A Flock of Seagulls. Arguably one of the best rock records of that decade (nine out of ten solid songs), and certainly the least appreciated, the fact that they choose this juicy album cut over whatever songs they could get on THAT was the 80s! demonstrates more intelligence about music than BD, that film’s purported specialty, let alone story, character, tension and wit.

Well I can’t actually like a film. I have like a film by hating another one.

The Take: Spiderman: Homecoming

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Profits!
Not unlike the almost as successful Thor: Ragnarok, it feels like they went through all the comic books and just stole the best stuff. There’s thousands of them. Keep doing this.
$8.00
Another thing, as a kid, he’s really out of his element, instead having the film telling us that he is.
$4.00
As another example of the inhabited, Mr. Holland attempting to give chase in the suburbs and unable to web-fly because of the lack of skyscrapers. What’s amazing: they don’t explain it.
$3.00
And guess what? You don’t have to see Uncle Ben die! You should see it…just so you don’t have to see that!
$2.00
Total Profits
$17.00
Losses!
I don’t have any problems with the film. Is good.
$0.00
Total Losses
$0.00

$17.00

Thoughts on Why people do stuff

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  1. Mary says:

    Space Age Love Song, say no more. Guy who wants a commitment, Girl who can’t make one, oh wait that was the 80s. Everything comes full circle. Thank you for thinking through the general inability to actually create that is Hollywood. Your genius may only recognized 100 years in the future where they will say, Mr. Scott King was like, joking, but then not really, but then again he really was…if such a thought process would even even be possible by humans in the future. As long as they keep doing what they love and listening to Flock of Seagulls, however cheesily inserted into Spiderman to provide real feelings, well maybe it possible. XOX

  2. Scott Scott says:

    Thank you person I’ve never met. I’d prefer my genius be recognized now, in the form of dozens of dollars. I didn’t make the eighties Flock/Commitment connection. It all makes sense now.

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